This is the 2nd part of our Aunt Kathy’s trip to Korea! You can read about the first part of the trip in Seoul here. Now on to Busan! I was really excited about the train ride from Seoul to Yangsan, because after years I’m still not tired of Korea’s beautiful mountains and countryside. It ended up not being as clear as it could have been but it was still a nice ride! As Seoul faded from our minds, we started focusing on the next couple days in Busan.
First we stopped at our apartment in Yangsan to pick up our car before heading to Busan to check into our hotel. After a quick glass of wine with Aunt Kathy, we made our way to Busan and checked into the Haeundae Grand Hotel. We arrived pretty late and after a small mixup with our check – in, we admired the gorgeous lobby, the grand piano playing classical music, and the calm atmosphere. Then we made our way up to check out our ocean front room. The first thing I loved, CARPET! It’s a rare thing in Korea, and it was nice to feel under my feet. And aside from another comfy bed, the highlight of this room was our spectacular view! The hotel sits on the far end of Haeundae beach, a part we’d never been before. The beach in front of us was quiet and peaceful, I loved looking out of the huge window and seeing that day or night!
View from our room!
Delicious afternoon tea set
Haeundae Grand Hotel Lobby
At this point we were starving, since we only had some snacks on the train and hadn’t eaten a proper dinner yet. We drove over to the beach and dove into a hole in the wall chicken place. I thought the whole “chicken and beer” culture would be a fun thing to show Aunt Kathy, because it was pretty late at night and family run hole in the wall places are the best! They were really busy, and we were crammed between a couple loud parties of young guys on their 6th or 10th bottle of soju! (who’s counting) After stuffing ourselves, we walked over to the beach and just sat in the cool sand, listened to the waves, and savored the moment together. It had been a long time since Aunt Kathy had been to a beach, and we talked about how healing being by the ocean can be.
The next day we slept in and then made our way to the Busan Aquarium! We had never been before, so it was a first for us as well. We had been to the COEX aquarium in Seoul, and it was awful, so until this trip we had kept our distance from Korean aquariums and zoos. But I was wrong! Although some of the things about the aquarium were kitschy and cutesy, I think the quality of this aquarium far surpasses any other aquarium in Korea. While we were there we got to see the penguin feeding, shark feeding, and we paid a little extra to do the “tour boat”. The tour boat was basically a tiny glass bottom boat that goes in a small circle on the surface of their biggest tank. We saw huge stingrays, sea turtles, fish, and their sand sharks! We even got a chance to feed the fish. It was a short ride but I think definitely worth the extra money to be on the other side of the glass for a bit!
The shark tank
An up close look of a stingray!
Feeding fish on the glass bottom boat
After another sit on the beach, we decided to take a short drive on the beautiful Dalmaji Road. This famous road has several lookout spots with breathtaking views of the coastline. The traffic was pretty terrible but we did manage to find parking at one lookout spot to snap a few photos. From there we drove to Gwanganli, and sat on the beach just in time for the lights to turn on! My Aunt had amazing luck the whole trip, the travel gods were definitely on her side.
The Diamond Bridge got new LED lights this year, and the light shows at night are mesmerizing to watch. Gwanganli might be our favorite neighborhood in Busan, so I’m glad we got to show her the beach and bridge at the perfect time. Soon we realized we were starving, and we made the trek to the other side of the beach with one thing in mind–shabu shabu. I think this a must try dish for people visiting, because it’s not just a meal, it’s an experience. It was packed and we had to wait awhile but it was worth it. Aunt Kathy loved it and was a pro at using chopsticks as usual.
Night view, Gwanganli
Admiring the view
Aunt Kathy and Me
On our final full day together, we returned to Yangsan. I had booked us a special meal at a really fancy restaurant we had been once before on our anniversary. I wanted Aunt Kathy to try as much Korean food as possible, and this was an easy and delicious way to do it. We ate sushi, raw beef, grilled pork, and delicious side dishes. We had so much we could barely move, and just when we thought we had our last course they would bring out more food! The meal ended with an apricot tea and persimmon, and our server also brought us a gift and a message of thanks to Aunt Kathy for visiting Korea. It was very heartfelt and touching, and we were so thankful for their kindness and generosity. I know we won’t forget that for a long time to come.
With our gift the restaurant gave us!
Pouring soju the Korean way!
Korean Raw Beef – Yukhoe
We arrived at Tongdosa just before sunset, the golden hour as they call it. Tongdosa is the largest temple in Korea and our city Yangsan gets to claim it! It’s also a very important place because it houses relics of the Buddha. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment of the day, but seeing Aunt Kathy walk into the Great Hall and see everything for the first time, the golden Buddha, the beautiful murals, the reverent believers bowing..it really touched me. It was a common theme throughout the trip, but I was really inspired by my Aunt’s spirit, her positivity, her openness, and her ability to be in awe of beauty. A lot of (if not most) people her age just become intellectually lazy, un-curious if that’s a word, and unmoved by the beauty that’s in front of them. It’s even challenging for me sometimes to keep the wonder in my life, but it’s something I consciously fight for, because it’s important. We’ve seen a lot of amazing things in the world, and it’s easy to say, “oh, another temple”. Aunt Kathy inspired me to take a few steps back and realize (again) what a wonderful place we get to live in. As her luck would have it, just as we were leaving, the monks performed a ceremony I had never seen before. It was beautiful, and I recommend watching the video to see it. It was a perfect closing to our trip.
Tongdosa at sunset
Aunt Kathy with relics of the Buddha
Throwing coins in the dragon pond
Aunt Kathy’s visit was a great success and I couldn’t have asked for a better guest. We miss you already! We hope to have more family visit in the future. Has family visited you while abroad? Tell us about it in the comments!